Ebola and the Economy: The Downside Risk


By: Dr. Lynn Reaser

Ebola has killed over 4,500 people since March, primarily in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Although only a few cases have been reported in the U.S. and Europe and contagion is relatively difficult, fears of a global epidemic have climbed.

A pandemic would weigh heavily on the economy. Escalating fear about the spread of the virus could stifle international travel. It could curtail spending by dissuading consumers from public places, such as shopping malls and restaurants. Productivity would be adversely affected if employees fear going to work and organizations devote major time and expense to mitigating risks. Locally, hospitals and government agencies are already diverting resources to this task.

There have been some hopeful signs recently that the virus can be contained. The risk of widespread contagion is still significant and the ensuing economic losses would be large.

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